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5 of the worst weather states for truckers

The most treacherous states are in the Great Plains

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

While truck driving is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S., the majority of professional drivers get through their careers without being involved in any major accidents.

However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), commercial truck drivers account for 2.4% of all traffic fatalities nationwide every year. In some states, weather plays a contributing role.

Based on NHTSA numbers and driver sentiment, the following states have some of the worst weather for truckers.

(Photo: Colorado DOT)

North Dakota

At 8.8%, North Dakota has the highest truck driver fatality rate in the country. This is partially due to the state’s oil boom, but weather also plays a big role.

North Dakota is a big, cold state, and most problems occur when drivers need to make good miles in icy conditions. When driving in North Dakota, truckers have to contend with blowing snow that piles up in ridges and often produces long periods of whiteout conditions.

Drivers who are not accustomed to this type of weather can cause accidents, bringing traffic to a screeching halt. Shoulders are covered in snow and often hard to see, leading to drivers veering off the roads.


The biggest weather issues facing truck drivers in Colorado are black ice and high winds. Many truck drivers use Colorado as a shortcut to the west, but this can stress out drivers, as well as add to wear and tear on the truck. One of the most treacherous stretches is Interstate 70 from just west of Denver to Glenwood Springs. This includes the Eisenhower Tunnel.

“In my opinion, it’s better to take I-80 until Utah and then go to Los Angeles through Salt Lake City. It’s a lot easier that way,” Deymon Lavor, a professional truck driver, told Business Insider in September 2019. “It’s a little more miles, but you are a lot more safer that way.”


Texas is truck country — for both 18-wheelers and pickups. It’s rare to encounter a pickup truck driver from Texas who isn’t familiar with how 18-wheelers maneuver in traffic, and they will make room for the big trucks when necessary. So many truckers say it’s easier to navigate most Texas roads compared to roads in other states.

But with a truck driver fatality rate at 3.6%, there must be something challenging about driving in Texas. It comes down to flash flooding that can appear out of nowhere during hurricanes or intense thunderstorms.

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)


Wyoming is another state in which truckers have to deal with high winds, especially around Elk Mountain, where some freeways turn diagonal. The wind there will often lead to tractor-trailer rollovers and chain reaction accidents, even on sunny days.

“From November all the way till May, it seems like I-80 is closed most of the time because of snow, ice and wind,” truck driver Jack S. Halquist said. “Trucks can be waiting on the side of the road in a line as far as 10 miles waiting for the freeway to open. This can be as long as a few days and newer truck drivers don’t know this and are not prepared, and quite often they do not have any food or places to go to the bathroom.”


High crosswinds often cause trouble for truckers in Nebraska due to wide-open spaces.

Especially when a trailer is empty, an 18-wheeler can easily be blown off the road, leading to a rollover. The reason is because the trailer provides a large surface area for impact. But crosswinds aren’t the only issue. Strong headwinds can slow down drivers and reduce fuel efficiency, and strong tailwinds can sway an empty or light trailer.

On some winter days, the winds can be accompanied by rapidly changing conditions from rain to snow and vice versa. This makes roads even more dangerous for truckers.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.


  1. Pianoman

    Wow read name of driver killed ,probably little to none training w 18 wheeler air brakes ,,see it all time stabbing on brakes…jus sayin……

    1. Paul

      I see it all the time, drivers stabbing the brakes or just no respect for the road conditions. Past Rawlins, Wy to Creston Jct and of course Elk Mt 252 to 254 is like the devils pit

      1. Silvey Piscatori

        I-80 across PA is crazy treacherous in the winter the minute any snow or ice start to accumulate. Truckers coming from the west and heading east are lulled into a sense of comfort after traveling across mostly straight and flat roads until they cross into PA. They’re then greeted with sharp turns, mountain passes, and heavier high-speed traffic. Some of the largest winter pileups in the country occur there with regularity. BEWARE.

        1. Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

          Thanks for your comments! What stretch(es) of I-80 in PA is(are) the worst, based on your experiences?

  2. Steve Joramo

    Sometimes the Wyoming Interstate 80 is closed, my company LOVES to send us across Interstate 70 in Colorado. Single Axles sleeper pulling doubles so frequently it requires Chains to get over the hills, and once in a while, a wrecker is needed to pull us up the hill, at $500.00 per time. Waiting a day or so would be cheaper, but they do not even consider that option. On 94 in Montana and North Dakota, it is usually colder so even driving in snow is ususally better as the snow has traction in it when colder than 26 degrees farenheit. Around 28 to 35, the snow is slippery.

    1. Paul

      I run den to wammy 5 days a week, waiting see how Wyo takes care of the roads this winter. Yep going to close. It. That means Grand Jct for us. Like you have been pulled up Vail & Eisenhower to many times, ran thur Glenwood canyon with only one passable lane. Makes no difference right or left lane which ever gets me thur it. Only good thing is I’m not in a single axle anymore

  3. Cannon Bryan

    I would think Texas’ high driver fatality rate is due largely to the oilfields in Texas. Many of the highways in the oilfields are extremely congested and were not made to handle the volume and weight of oilfield traffic. Couple that with the necessity of on time deliveries and lack of available time you get a recipe for accidents.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.